The Best Kept Treasures of Italy – The Global Last Supper

When I first heard about it, I was captured by the story and changed my schedule without hesitation. There was no way that I could leave the Basilicata region without seeing what seemed like much more than an interesting piece of art.

I arrived at La Palomba Sculpture Park in the late afternoon on a cloudy day. The privately-owned park, situated on the outskirts of Matera (an UNESCO World Heritage town), boasts a permanent exhibition of metal sculptures by the local artist Antonio Paradiso and a few others. Rays of sun filtered through the low clouds creating an ambient gray light, while a whispering wind descended the slope with us as we entered the park.

The setting is indeed unusual. The abandoned tufa quarry which hosts the massive art work provides a peculiar dimension of space and sound. Upon entering, one feels wrapped by an invisible blanket- the negative space where a massive stone once resided. The heart of the mountain, ripped by decades of digging and with its naked walls striped by extraction, appears like a gigantic pentagram holding the notes of the metal sculptures that sit at its bottom. One of them is the main reason that prompted my visit. It is the “Global Last Supper,” made with iron bars and steel girders from New York City’s WTC Twin Towers destroyed on 9/11. Twisted metal comprises the “Global Last Supper”.

In 2009, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey authorized the transfer of the World Trade Center’s rubble for free to foundations, cities or artists who submitted a proposal for its use. Nine thousand requests from all over the world were submitted but from these, only about forty were selected. Antonio Paradiso, an Apulian artist, was the only Italian allowed to use a portion of the remains of Ground Zero, based on the merit of the artistic project he presented.

He chose the pieces one by one at JFK’s hangar 17 where they were kept. “These pieces had the function of supporting the structure, but they were resting horizontally inside the hangar, imitating the souls of those who passed away with them,” recalled the artist. In December of 2010 he shipped the selected pieces to Italy in a container — 20 tons of twisted steel sheets wrought by the heat and the impact of the two flights, to be remodeled according to his artistic vision. These pieces of metal that, in the artist’s words, “would have (by themselves) told without speaking and seen without looking” were imbued with new life thanks to the talent of this Apulian artist.

Antonio Paradiso (“Paradise” – how appropriate a name!) decided to represent them vertically, grouped around or behind an ideal table, for his Last Supper recalls the Judeo-Christian supper only in its title.“The globalized or contemporary last supper is the world economic tsunami where the emerging economies try to level off,” he explained. “Christ’s new last supper is not one, but three thousand deaths, screaming admonition; a warning to all humanity”.

This was only one of the many treasures encountered on my trip to Basilicata, the region that is now on top of my (ever changing) list of “best kept treasures of Italy.”


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